Memorial Day service held at Andersonville National Cemetery

Published 8:29 pm Monday, May 27, 2024

Attendees gathered on Sunday for the Memorial Day service at Andersonville National Cemetery. Park rangers ferried visitors to a white tent set up before the rostrum. Programs served as fans in between the gentle breezes that ruffled the flags and banners.

Mistress of ceremonies, Susie Sernaker, addressed the crowd. “On behalf of the National Park Service and the staff of Andersonville National Historic Site, I want to welcome you all to Andersonville National Cemetery. Superintendent Jay Wagner has had a family emergency and was not able to be here today, so as the Park’s chief of interpretation, I have the honor and privilege of serving today as the Mistress of Ceremonies for our annual Memorial Day service. As is customary, we will begin by paying our respects to our American flag.”

After the pledge, Reverend Bud Womack, of LifePoint Church, gave the invocation.

Sernaker resumed her address. “Since 1868, Americans have come together to reflect on the supreme sacrifice of our servicemen and women have made for our nation. We remember those who gave their lives in service to our Country, and we recommit ourselves to the cause for which for which they fought. This year’s commemoration falls during the 160th anniversary of Camp Sumter Military Prison’s operation. By this day in 1864, 1447 soldiers and sailors had already lost their lives and were laid to rest in what would become Andersonville National Cemetery.”

She told of the volunteers who had come to prepare for the Memorial Day service. “During the past week, many volunteers have come to Andersonville national historic site to honor our fallen soldiers.”

Jim Covington, board member of the Friends of Andersonville, led the recognition of veterans. “We must remember that today is a day of remembrance, and honor, and to pay great tribute to the individuals who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

Kenneth Cutts, with representative Sanford Bishop’s office, also spoke, sharing words on behalf of the Senator. Sherrif Bryant then addressed the crowd reciting the Gettysburg. “Like most national cemeteries, Andersonville has had a long tradition of reading the Gettysburg address at Memorial Day events. But that became a thing of the past by the mid-20th century. I have been honored, of the 160th anniversary of the Civil War at Andersonville, we are excited to bring back this tradition.”

Afterward, Patsey Schreiber, retired U.S. Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman, gave the keynote address. “As was said earlier, from the book of John, ‘Greater love has no man than the man that will lay down his life for his friends’ as we see evident today.”

She talked about the importance of Memorial Day. “Memorial Day is a day to pay respects to those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Some Americans don’t fully see or fully understand the sacrifice made by the 1% who served in this Armed Forces, a sacrifice that preserves the freedoms we all too often take for granted.”

She applauded their sacrifices. “The Americans who rest here, and their families, are the best of us. They lay here, and they asked for nothing. But we today owe them. We need to remember not only the sacrifice they have made but we need to make sure that sacrifice was not in vain.”

Schreiber implored the audience to live their lives in light of their sacrifices. “Is what we are doing today for the betterment of this Country, this Country that they have fought and died for? And if it’s not, just simply don’t do it.”

She charged those listening to honor them throughout their lives. “How do we as a people repay their eternal debt? Yes, we owe them this day. Of course we do. But we must honor them each day by using the gifts they have given us to create a better world. We owe them that. Not just a better world, but a kinder world. A kinder nation, a kinder community, and a kinder people. They have earned it.”

Several organizations presented wreaths to honor the fallen. Caitlyn Price, lead park ranger, presented a wreath on behalf of American Ex-Prisoners of War.

Melanie Grace, treasurer, presented a wreath on behalf of the Friends of Andersonville.

Linda Hartung, national secretary, presented a wreath on behalf of the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War, Clara Barton, tent #3.

Joseph Gryczkowski, Sr. Vice Commander, and Leo Root, jr. vice commander, presented a wreath on behalf of the American Legion, John D Mathis, post 2.

Lisa Simpson, past regent, and Gaynor Cheokas, regent, presented a wreath on behalf of the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution, Council of Safety.

Kelly Pruitt presented a wreath on behalf of the American Defender of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society.

Sheila Richards, first vice president, presented a wreath on behalf of the James Tharp Chapter of LGAR.

Linda Hartung, national secretary, presented a wreath on behalf of the National Society of Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

Patsey Schreiber, state commander, and Pat Dobbins, state president, presented a wreath on behalf of Veterans of Foreign Wars and Auxiliary Georgia.

Ray Moses, past commander, Lola Moses, DAVA commander, Angela Gillmore, chaplain, presented a wreath on behalf of the Disabled American Veterans, Dick M Lench, chapter 27.

Caitlyn Price, lead park ranger, presented a wreath on behalf of the Women’s Relief Corps.

Taps was played by the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence Band.